The big news in the cycle yesterday was Blizzard canceling the Titan project, their work-in-progress next generation MMO. We don’t know what it was, only that it was delayed at one point and now it has been cancelled.
This has led to any number of people to say, “Ha ha! Blizzard sucks!” or other equally inane things.
Let me tell you about what really sucks in the real world.
What really sucks is being in a company where you have to ship your product, whether it good or not, because otherwise the place will go out of business. When you have to release work you know isn’t quite ready or needed another design pass or just should have been shelved at some point, that sucks. Or when your product hits the market after a year of crunch only to find that the customers interested in it only want some small feature that got tacked on because it was easy… and they aren’t willing to wait for version 2.0, much less pay for it… that sucks.
But being in a company with enough financial independence to be able to say, “No, that’s not good enough, we’re not going to ship that,” that totally does not suck.
It is not easy. Every project gets a life of its own, and if the company has invested in the project and talk about it outside the company, turning things off can be, as Chris Metzen said, “excruciating.” And you have to be willing to ignore the whole sunk costs thing, because money has been spent. I have worked at a couple of companies that should have said no to bad projects, that would have been better off if they had, but couldn’t bring themselves to do it.
So seeing a company that is both secure enough in its market and knows what it is about enough to drop projects, that makes me envious more than anything. That is what I was told “real” companies do back in college.
So Blizzard will just have to carry on with its streak of best-selling, money making games by not shipping something they didn’t feel worked.
I am hoping to see something deeper on the subject once people get past mocking the market leader for an alleged failure.
For example, what does it mean for the MMO market that Blizzard doesn’t necessarily want to make another MMO? Is this opportunity for others, or just something that will scare off more investors?
And, of course, what does that mean for World of Warcraft in the long term? The billion dollar a year cash cow that is WoW is part of the reason that Blizzard has the flexibility to say no at this time. I expect that we will see even more focus on Azeroth to keep that revenue stream active. Let it go? How about never? Is never good for you?